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Transformations of Circe

The History of an Enchantress

Beginning with a detailed study of Homer's balance of negative and positive elements in the Circe-Odysseus myth, Judith Yarnall employs text and illustrations to demonstrate how Homer's Circe is connected with age-old traditions of goddess worship. She then examines how the image of a one-sided "witch," who first appeared in the commentary of Homer's allegorical interpreters, proved remarkably persistent, influencing Virgil and Ovid. Yarnall concludes with a discussion of work by Margaret Atwood and Eudora Welty in which the enchantress at last speaks in her own voice: that of a woman isolated by, but unashamed of, her power.

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